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Strengthening community justice

Published: 11 Feb 2016 18:30
Part of:
Law and order

New model to prevent and reduce further offending approved by Parliament.

A Bill to strengthen the community justice system in Scotland has been passed by the Scottish Parliament.

The Community Justice (Scotland) Bill supports the Scottish Government's commitment to significant reform of penal policy in Scotland, aimed at reducing reoffending and moving away from ineffective short term prison sentences, in favour of more effective community sentences.

The Bill lays the groundwork for a new decentralised model which supports increased use of community sentences, a reduction in the use of short prison sentences and improved prospects for people who have offended returning to their communities.

The Community (Justice) Scotland Bill gives responsibility for planning and monitoring community justice services to local partners, and also creates a national body to provide leadership, promote innovation and give assurance on improved outcomes for Scotland's communities.

Minister for Community Justice and Legal Affairs, Paul Wheelhouse, said:

"This is an important step forward for community justice in Scotland. With this Bill, which has received broad support across the Chamber, we make clear our commitment to reducing reoffending and the harm it causes to individuals, families and communities.

"Our vision for a fairer justice system in Scotland reflects the values of a modern progressive nation. We are working towards a position where prison sentences, and particularly short term sentences, could be used less frequently, with a stronger emphasis on effective community sentences to address the underlying causes of offending and being able to demonstrate their effectiveness to communities.

"Scotland's approach is already working, as shown by reconviction rates at their lowest for 16 years. The number of reconvictions of people given community sentences like a community payback order is less than half compared with those receiving short term prison sentences and I pay tribute to all involved in the community justice field who have contributed to this improvement, but we can and should do more."

"Unpaid work by community payback order teams to fill sandbags during flooding in the Scottish Borders and to source and process wood to be delivered to older people shows the fantastic benefit that community sentencing can have on the community.

"We have worked closely with stakeholders to design this model which puts decision making into the hands of people who know their communities best and understand the problems that are unique to their area. These local arrangements will be complemented by leadership at a national level.

"We have allocated nearly £770 million to local authorities over eight years and will continue to be ring-fence that funding under the new model, in the face of significant cuts from the UK Government. Significant funding is also being made available to support the transition to the new model.

"I believe the proposals contained within the Community Justice Bill will instil our communities and Scotland's judiciary with greater confidence in community justice, through stronger leadership and better strategic direction."

Sacro Chief Executive, Tom Halpin, said:

"I am pleased and encouraged that the vital role played by the third sector in the delivery of services in community justice has been recognised in the Community Justice Bill. The willingness of Scottish Government and the Justice Committee to listen and respond to feedback from Sacro and other third sector partners throughout the Bill's progress has been apparent. This has strengthened everyone's ability to deliver for victims, people convicted of an offence, families and communities."

Notes to editors

The new community justice model has been shaped by the responses to public consultations in 2012 and 2014 and extensive engagement with partners. Funding of £1.6 million is being made available annually this year and over the next two years to help partners make the transition to the new model.

Nearly £770 million has been allocated to Community Justice Authorities over eight years and will continue to be ring-fenced under the new model.

The new National Strategy for community justice will link with a number of other strategies to ensure a joined up approach to prevention and early intervention, including the Youth Justice Strategy – Preventing offending: getting it right for children and young people.